Stop Politically-Motivated Violence, End Impunity in the Philippines sign now

On 23 November 2009, 100 armed men from local militias and the local police force, tortured and brutally murdered 57 people, including two human rights lawyers, 30 media personnel and relatives of a local politician who were on their way file his candidacy for governor of the Maguindanao province in the May 2010 national election. The ambush was allegedly led by Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the son of the outgoing provincial governor.

The massacre is the most atrocious election-related violence in recent Philippine history and involves the biggest ever death toll among journalists in one incident anywhere in the world. Concerns have been raised that the personal links of President Arroyos administration to the suspects of the massacre in Maguindanao could hinder an impartial prosecution of those responsible for the crime. International and local fact-finding missions report that measures were not taken to ensure proper investigation into the massacre.

On February 6, 2010, 43 health workers, including two medical doctors, were illegally arrested by 300 state security forces in the province of Rizal. The victims were participating in a health training organized by the Council for Health and Development, a respected organization which provides primary health care to the poorest communities. Immediately following the arrest, the victims were subjected to physical and psychological torture. All the health workers were denied visit by counsel, doctors, and family, in clear contravention of their rights. The military has made unfounded accusations that the health workers are members of the New Peoples Army.

Since the end of 2009, Pastor Berlin Guerrero and Pastor Rodel Canja of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines have been receiving threatening text messages. The increasingly violent threats forced the UCCP to pull out the two Pastors from their places of assignment. In May 2007, Pastor Guerrero was abducted by government security forces who alleged that he is a leader of the communist organization. He was charged with a 17-year old crime of murder and jailed for a year and three months, only being released from prison after the Court of Appeals dismissed his case.

Candidates of opposition parties, in particular progressive party-list organizations, have expressed with credibility their fears for their safety. Not only have leaders of their organizations been the primary victims and targets of extrajudicial killings committed by state security forces, but their candidates in the May election have already received threats.

We, the undersigned, are concerned that these incidents demonstrate the extent to which those in power will use violence to protect their entrenched position. We are concerned by the virtual impunity of the perpetrators because of the Philippine Governments failure to tackle politically-motivated violence and human rights abuses.

We are gravely concerned by the increasing violence and repression in the Philippines as the hotly-contested Presidential elections approaches, and with the Philippine government's and army's promise to eradicate the armed resistance this year through its counter-insurgency campaign, Oplan Bantay Laya (Operation Plan Freedom Watch).

It is apparent that democracy in the Philippines is under siege and those criticizing the present government are seeing their rights curtailed and their lives seriously endangered. It is apparent that in this context, citizens cannot exercise their right to vote and that a free and fair election cannot be conducted.

It is crucial that the international community, and particularly our government in Ottawa, turn its eyes on this south-east Asian nation.

We call on the Philippine government to:

1. Ensure an effective, impartial and speedy prosecution of those responsible for the Ampatuan massacre including the members of government security forces suspected of involvement in the murders;
2. Immediately order the release of the 43 health workers who were arrested on February 6, 2010;
3. Direct government security forces to stop the harassment of Pastors Berlin Guerrero and Rodel Canja;
4. Take decisive and concrete action to immediately disband all private armies of political warlords, local militias and paramilitary forces and to stop all private funding of police and military auxiliary groups;
5. Immediately scrap Oplan Bantay Laya and issue an order directing all government security forces to stop and prohibit acts of intimidation, threats and harassment against organizations and individuals who are critical of the government, progressive Party List organizations and progressive opposition candidates and their leaders and supporters;
6. Take concrete and immediate steps to implement the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur, Mr. Philip Alston.

We call on the Canadian Government to:

1. Call for a full impartial international investigation of the bloody massacre in Maguindanao in which 30 journalists were killed and in which basic judicial and police procedures were apparently ignored;
2. Initiate an international observers mission to the upcoming Philippine elections in the light of the recent massacres and attacks on the rights of the Philippine citizens to basic freedom of speech and the right to freely vote their conscience;
3. Issue a public statement condemning the arrest of the 43 health workers and to call on the Philippine Government to ensure that their rights are respected and to order their immediate release;
4. Call on the Philippine Government to investigate the harassment of the Pastor Berlin Guerrero and Pastor Rodel Canja and put an immediate stop to it.

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Wallace UnderwoodBy:
Petition target:
Philippine and Canadian Governments


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